Infants Have Highest Proportion of Potentially Avoidable ED Visits in California

Thursday, September 4th, 2008
This post was written by Melanie Matthews

A report released by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) found that Infants have the highest proportion — nearly seven in 10 — of potentially avoidable ED visits to the state’s hospitals. Babies less than a year old with common childhood ailments, such as ear infections or fevers, are frequent visitors to the ED, regardless of the family’s insurance status.

Other findings from the study include:

  • The uninsured are nearly twice as likely to visit the ED as the privately insured but far less likely than Medi-Cal or Medicare patients.
  • Children under 18 account for a quarter of ED visits. Children covered by Medi-Cal make more potentially avoidable ER visits than privately insured and uninsured children.
  • Medicare patients are frequent ER visitors, but fewer than three in 10 visits by patients over 65 were considered avoidable. Forty percent of the patients in this age group are admitted to the hospital for further treatment.
  • This study suggests that expanding access to high-quality care outside the hospital could reduce avoidable ED visits. Parents who can go to an urgent care center in the early evening — the peak time children go to the ED — or on weekends may be less likely to go to the hospital. Broadening the network of community healthcare centers and expanding the supply of PCPs in underserved areas may also improve preventive healthcare for the uninsured and publicly insured.

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